By on February 3, 2016

1991 Oldsmobile 442

I love road racing. I grew up about an hour away from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and spent many summer weekends wandering the grounds while soaking in the sounds and smells unique to the track. I’m pretty sure my first race was the Lumbermens Six Hours IMSA race in 1983, won by my local hero Bobby Rahal. I was four.

While I certainly enjoyed watching the CART and IMSA races, I always looked forward to the support races leading up to the main events. The best battles of the weekend were often dealt by the showroom stock classes, with small coupes and sedans bashing fenders and doors to get an edge in the corner.

Perhaps even as a kid I knew that I’d never be able to afford to race the big bore stuff, and adjusted my expectations downward. That must be why I adore homologation specials.

Those cars tweaked by the factory to perform just a bit better than a standard car. Carroll Shelby was a master at this, but most of the OEMs did it over the years. Dodge/Plymouth had the Neon ACR. Mazda had the Miata R. Chevrolet offered the 1LE package on the Camaro. Even Oldsmobile got in the game, with this 1991 Oldsmobile 442.

A high-revving, twin-cam four cylinder producing 190 horsepower in 1991? Most would assume such numbers would come from Honda, but the Quad 4 — despite its many faults — could produce serious horsepower for its time. Only a couple hundred of these W41 package cars were built on the Cutlass Calais N-Body, but the drivetrain and W41 moniker carried over to the new Achieva.

This one, which I found on the Obscure Cars For Sale Facebook group, is seriously overpriced. I’d have reservations paying more than $1,000 for this, so $3,500 is frankly insane. These aren’t going to cross the auction block in 20 years for six figures. They are cheap commuter cars, with a special drivetrain, and $5,000 would net a concours example — if it could be found.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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75 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1991 Oldsmobile 442...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Has to be my least favorite Olds design of the 1990s. Compare it to any sedan, or the larger Cutlass (or even an Achieva) and it just falls down right away.

    It doesn’t look modern, it doesn’t look slick, it’s not pretty, it’s not large, it isn’t luxurious. The only thing going for it is a W41 label and some rarity. For this money you could get a seriously nice late run Toronado Trofeo, which is roughly 147.55% cooler. And has a 3800.

    See?
    https://columbus.craigslist.org/cto/5430809660.html

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I owned a 4-4-2 back in 1969. Cannot find one anywhere now. 4-cylinder 4-door, 2-wheel drive; a 1961 Renault Dauphine Gordini.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    How many head gaskets has it gone through by now? The Quad 4 lent a LOT of its design to the Northstar, to ill effect.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    I always loved the W41 442 Calais.

    While a 190HP 4-banger in 1991 is nothing to sneeze at, they weren’t just a hot motor. These were a pretty serious effort at a homologation special.

    They only built a couple hundred, they had their own specific W41 engine tune and camshafts, exhaust, along with a shorter ratio transaxle, a baffled fuel tank, and suspension package.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That really is a V8 horsepower figure for the early 90s.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        When the Quad 4 was making 190 hp the Oldsmobile 307 Quadrajet was making 140 hp. It was indeed heady for the times.

      • 0 avatar
        See 7 up

        No really.
        Most v6’s of the era were near or over that power figure.
        Some pedestrian neglected American v8 maybe but torque was probably higher.

        Most German v8s of the time we’re well above 250 hp.
        American v8s were above 225 for the most part.

        It’s good for its size at the time. I’ll give them that. Otherwise this was and is a POS that makes me wonder how American car manufacturers survived the late 80’s early 90’s. Thankfully they did.

    • 0 avatar
      NickyPop

      My step mom bought one new in Cincinnati. It was a rocket of a sleeper. ‘Stangs, camero’s, even ‘vettes where shocked to get beat by a “Grand Am” looking olds.
      Fun car for the era. A real sleeper. She just had it restored.

  • avatar
    319583076

    What’s homeboy doing in the passenger seat?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Giving you more reasons not to buy this car. It’s probably had seven owners and a title issue or two along the way. He’ll be late to meet you with it at the local Wal-Mart parking lot, as he had to stop for some cigs and a Mountain Dew and didn’t quite budget enough time.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I see this more as a “digestible collectible” than a “crapwagon”.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    So, I kinda want this. Not for that price though. An Achieva SCX W41 would be even better. I had one, and sometimes I miss it.

  • avatar
    bachewy

    Blasphemous crap wagon. 442 meant 4 barrel card, 4 speed manual transmission, and 2 exhaust pipes.

  • avatar
    missmySE-R

    My Dad had a base model Calais (iron duke, 3 speed auto) and I never thought it a bad looking vehicle. Compared to the Achieva that followed, I always thought this was a cleaner design that wasn’t trying so hard. Given that I mostly drove my Dad’s car in high school, I always lusted after the hotter versions. These 442 models are unicorns, but even the ‘regular’ Quad 4 with manual transmission (150-160 hp, 152 lb-ft) was nothing to be ashamed of at the time. After totaling my Dad’s Calais on a foggy night in a Target parking lot, my first car was a ’92 Sentra SE-R (hence my name). That had 140 hp / 132 lb-ft, albeit in a lighter vehicle. For their time, these were pretty cool little cars that flew under the radar perhaps more than they should have.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This might be the most cynical reappropriation of a classic old badge I’ve ever seen. 442? What is 442 about this car? They should have named it 499 or however many ccs each cylinder has.

  • avatar

    Sorry. I recall at a young age a ride in a cousin’s friends 442 ragtop, golden era late 60s vintage.

    It was thus that I met TORQUE, understood Four Barrel, and knew why men shifted manually.

    Well, at least Pontiac never put Firebird on a J car….I think ?

    Whatever is left is BoldNewGraphix. The car above is from some GM era that I totally missed, fortunately. I still enjoy the article-how these cars die is a story always.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    My company had a lot of Oldsmobiles in its fleet back then. I remember the Olds zone rep dropping one of these at the office for the fleet manager to drive for a week. Same color, 4 spd, Quad 4. I drove it home for the weekend. Sort of fun shifting the gears. Don’t think it was more powerful than my company issued Cutlass Ciera with the 3.8 V6.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    This 442 Calais W41, and the Achieva SCX W41, are on my bucket list. Mind you, probably somewhere not too far from the top. (Don’t judge.)

    But either of the two must have that “elusive” (haha) Getrag 5MT.

    There’s just *something* about a late 80’s/early 90’s Olds with a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    old5.0

    Ugh,bad memories. Back in high school, a friend’s mom had a fairly new red W41 identical to this one. She was on her way to work one winter morning and lost control on a patch of ice, hitting a semi head-on. Another buddy and I were on our way to school and happened across the wreck just as the highway patrol were arriving. She was a very nice lady, very good to all of her son’s dumb friends. Horrible, horrible day.

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